Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
Providing BVI Airways the full $7.2M upfront, before important measures were put in place, was a big mistake made by the Government. This is according to former National Democratic Party (NDP) Government Minister and Cabinet Member, Hon. Ronnie Skelton.
Government pumped $7.2M of tax payers’ money into the startup operations of the airline, which was aimed at making direct flights between the BVI and Miami, but it never took off.
Opposition Member, Hon. Andrew Fahie, who had raised red flags about the agreement from the inception, alleged that the deal was a scam.
Hon. Skelton, who leads the Progressive Virgin Islands Movement (PVIM), was a sitting member of Cabinet when the deal was made and often chastised critics and praised the airline deal on many occasions.
Now, speaking on PVIM radio show this week, the Opposition Leader said that he supported the policy decision to have the airline, but distanced himself from the poor implementation of that decision.
“We made a decision to establish the airline to get airlift into the Virgin Islands and the agreement that was developed is a good agreement, but the way it was implemented is where the problem is,” he said.
The former Health Minister went on to explain, “If I am going to sign a contract to build a house and I say I am going to give you a 10 percent deposit, for that 10 percent deposit you need to accomplish certain goals or certain markers.”
However, Hon. Skelton said that the issue was how the project was established.
“It seems to me based on what I saw after, they gave the outfit all the money up front without following the contract. So, that is what I call implementation phase of it.”
He said that persons are blaming all the members who were Ministers for overrun projects, but that should not be the case because implementations were not the fault of all the Ministers.
“The things they are blaming you for is like the airline, the high school wall and the pier park overruns, and anyone who knows business/systems, knows that you have policy decisions, you make decisions that are good for the country.”
“No one can convince me that getting airlift from Miami into BVI directly is not a good idea, not a good policy decision. The implementation of the policy decision is what we need to question. Who are the ones responsible for the implementation of that policy decision?” Hon. Skelton said.
He also praised himself for the way in which projects under the Ministry of Health were carried out, including the major overrun $100M and counting Peebles Hospital project.
Former Government Backbencher and now PVIM member, Hon. Archibald Christian had revealed that government was having difficulties locating officials from BVI Airways to recoup the $7.2M.
He said that Government should have invested that money into local airline, VI Airlink, which is owned by the Brathwaites.
Premier and Finance Minister, Hon. Dr. D. Orlando Smith has remained silent on the issue during several questions posed to him in the House of Assembly by the Opposition, maintaining that Government is trying to recoup the money.
Hon. Melvin Mitch Turnbull, Second District Representative and PVIM member is set to pose several questions to Premier Smith about the airline deal during next Tuesday's sitting of the House of Assembly.